Written by Phil Guarnieri Friday, 05 October 2012 00:00
As a tyke I was a walking ad for a detergent commercial. Like many little boys I was a magnet for grime, mud, muck, dust —- you name it. My mother, young, inexperienced and perhaps a touch anxious, would become alarmed when I plowed into unsterile environments only to be reproached by her mother to leave me alone because I needed “to eat 2 pounds of dirt in order to be healthy.” As it turns out Grandma, God rest her soul, may have been onto something.
Today, I smile when I think of this bit of nostalgic lore but I also wonder at the magisterial complexity of life on this planet. That might seem quite a leap, but it’s really only a small step in considering how our species, sometimes in unsearchable ways, has interacted with organisms both visible and invisible that surround and shape what we have become and who we are today.
Indeed, speculation is rife with how our early ancestors became implicated with their environment. Human biology and the ecosystems of nature are knotted together with such labyrinthine complexity that even today the relationships are not fully understood. Some conclusions seem self-evident: The virtual hairlessness of modern Homo Sapiens compared to their even more hirsute ancestors, much less other mammals, unmistakably indicates that early humans were compelled to gravitate to warmer as opposed to arctic temperatures. Conversely, tropical rain forests, factories for the most protean and diverse forms of life, were left unsubdued by our race, at least until very recently, because deadly micro-parasites that cannot survive sub-freezing temperatures or low humidity thrived in that sultry habitat.
So human beings migrated to more congenial climes both in Africa and later Asia. Parasitism existed there also, but not in the same quantities or toxicity. Micro-parasites are slow to advance and as a countervailing measure a highly evolved natural balance materialized between these parasites and rival parasites. This development gave our species a fighting chance to survive disease and extinction. As a result, our human and proto-human ancestors, while by no means living to the Bible’s allotted “Three score and ten” nonetheless lived tolerably healthy lives for reasons not least of which was that their immunological resistance was fortified by being immersed in the mud, the grime, the dirt and the muck of their surroundings.
In time, that 3-pound mass between our ears asserted itself and technology intruded upon human affairs, changing life on earth in ways that are almost incalculable. Humans soon became capable of fashioning weapons that could kill large bodied herbivores that heavily populated both the African and Asian savannas. Bereft of the massive musculature body, sharp teeth and claws of the apes, the genus homus had to rely on the superiority of their cognitive and communications skills to overcome the impediments of nature (hunting, for example, provided clothing as a unique cultural adaptation for protection against the harsher elements of existence) as well as a means to enlarge their food supply.
This adaptability proved especially useful with the ebbing of the last Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago, where in virtually every part of the world Homo Sapiens showed astonishing versatility in coping with cataclysmic climatic and geographical upheavals that traumatized our planet. Even more crucial was that the hunting and gathering economy which sustained human life since time immemorial was being replaced by a developing agriculture that was slowly but inexorably sweeping over the environs of North Africa, Asia and Europe. A narrative on how the farming revolution exactly materialized remains beyond our historical understanding except in the most generalized terms. Still, the Ice Age, in creating new river valleys, coastal inlets and fertile crescents of land, became such a game changer that the entire material fabric of what would become modern civilization began to congeal.
The essentials of this new epoch were the growing of crops and the practice of animal husbandry. Populations not only became larger and lived in smaller areas, but for the first time settlements, some of which would turn into cities, became robust as a result of the unprecedented surplus of food. Social organization became more defined and vital, only because the idea of social order, law and custom became all the more relevant and necessary. But the felicific calculus that resulted from the farming revolution was not a zero sum game. While there was a greater solidity in terms of settlement, populations became more sessile as mass peregrinations became less prevalent. Settlements became not only more exposed to human waste but also to animals and animal waste. Meanwhile, these communities had to rely on the same water source for all their needs, making the prospect of contamination greater. These living environments provided an ideal vehicle for intestinal parasites to move from one host to another thus threatening these populations in a way they never did their hunting and migratory predecessors. Animal diseases would become human diseases: Measles derived from canine distemper, as did rabies; smallpox from cowpox; influenza from hogs; yellow fever from monkeys; bubonic plague from rodents. The grazing of large numbers of cattle and sheep resulted in various bacterial and viral infections that could easily become endemic. Even the modern plague of AIDS most likely had its provenance in the animal kingdom.
The perplexing thing is why a particular organism becomes a pervasive killer while others are either engulfed by white corpuscles, a first line of defense, or are killed off by other mechanisms such as an organism’s antibodies, which are manufactured when being attacked. So human ingenuity and adaptability has its downside; yet because of the advancement of culture and the pooling of experience the collective benefits of social organization, despite parasitic infiltration, human population density in these settlements became 10-20 times greater than hunting densities. Human ingenuity triumphed as did human biology, which again developed a resistance to many of these viral infections by being exposed to them by virtue of living in the muck, mud and grime of daily existence.
This is not to say that viral infections have not decimated populations and even great civilizations. They have. A 2nd-century outbreak of smallpox had a devastating impact on the Roman Empire and was probably the first in a series of blows that led to its downfall. Cortez had but 600 men in Mexico, yet they conquered millions of Aztecs and their extraordinary civilization. Pizarro, in the same fashion, conquered millions in the Inca civilization in South America. The historian William H. McNeill persuasively argued that it was disease that the Amerindians had no resistance to, convincing them that the God of the Conquistadores was far more powerful despite their extraordinary numerical advantage. The Black Death of the 14th century did much to undermine institutional Roman Catholicism slowly paving the way to Luther’s Reformation. In modern times the outbreak of the Great Influenza of 1918, the last year of WWI, killed at least five times as many as the war did. The one-two punch leveled society in the succeeding decades and may well have served as a contributing factor to the rise of Fascism and Totalitarianism.
Yet, infections that had once threatened the lives of our ancestors —- tuberculosis, cholera, malaria, smallpox —- are no longer to be dreaded, but in a fascinating new book “An Epidemic of Absence, Moises Velasquez states that diseases such as typhoid, mumps, rubella, yellow fever etc. no longer trouble us because of the science of immunization. But before we unlock the liquor cabinet and uncork a bottle of champagne, there is now a list of modern illnesses that our ancestors hardly knew: asthma, eczema, hay fever, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis. According to Valasquez and others, while modern hygiene prevents infection, it also promotes allergy and autoimmunity. Infection with parasites, says Valasquez, prevents or ameliorates many diseases (like those just previously listed) or inflammation. Studies show that Finns isolated in an impoverished Soviet province had more parasites and fewer allergies than Finns in Finland. Swedes in immaculate Stockholm had three times as much asthma as Estonians in smoky Estonia. Ethiopians got allergies when they lost their intestinal worms, and counter-intuitively, living on a farm greatly reduces the possibility of developing allergies. Valasquez cured his own hay fever by infecting himself with hookworms before deciding the payoff of diarrhea was too great.
Ever wonder about the increase in cases of autism that some scientists believe is the product of overdiagnosis? Valasquez convincingly argues that this disorder parallels asthma in its recent rise among affluent, urban, mostly male, disproportionately firstborn people. Valasquez says that the brains of people with autism are often inflamed and infection with worms and viruses can powerfully modify autistic symptoms. Valasquez theorizes that our immune system evolved to expect parasites. In a world with no parasites the immune system becomes unbalanced. Valasquez speculates that even heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression are related to an unbalanced immune system caused by an impoverished microbial ecosystem —- meaning we’re not playing in enough dirt. Science writer Matt Ridley reflecting on these facts states that “dirtier lives may be just the medicine we need.” Yes, Grandma would agree, you need to eat 2 pounds of dirt in order to be healthy.
Saturday, 23 November 2013 00:00
For Frank Lazzaro, getting into floral design was an accident, a stroke of luck. What started out as a makeshift Christmas decoration in the Army eventually landed him in the Oval Office at the White House serving as Christmas decorator for three presidents.
The former Floral Park florist served at Fort Bragg, N.C. during the Vietnam War as supervisor of medical supplies in Womack Army Hospital when his boss made a request.
Tuesday, 19 November 2013 00:00
Floral Park Memorial High School alum and former valedictorian Janis Powers (’87), an inveterate traveler who has visited more than 30 countries, tapped into her Long Island roots to create the backdrop of her debut novel, Mama’s Got a Brand New Job. Her essential message? Despite corporate America’s apparent acceptance, there’s not much room for working mothers in the boardroom.
Powers’ main character is Maxine Pedersen, a patent attorney at a high-powered Manhattan firm who has just become a mother. “She was 100 percent career before, so the math doesn’t work,” Powers says of her leading lady. “Maxine comes to the conclusion that she has to redefine herself.”
The Junior Women’s Club of Bellerose will hold a Shopping Night on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. at 50 Superior Road, Bellerose Village. Wine tasting, jewelry, cosmetics, baked goods, handbags, scarves and shawls,ornaments, gourmet cookware, spices and handmade items will be available. For more information, Lisa Tice 516-581-9772 or Nancy Knese 516-567-6321.
will hold its annual Holiday Breakfast and Chinese Auction fundraiser at Floral Park Village Hall on Sunday, Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Chinese Auction will begin at 1 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10 and may be purchased at the door or in advance by contacting Lion President John Mansfield 516-233-1564.
• Gam-Anon, an anonymous organization for spouses, adult children over 18, family and friends whose lives have been affected by a gambling problem. Meets Mondays at the Jewish Community Center of W. Hempstead, 711 Dogwood Ave., W. Hempstead. For information call 321-2883.
• Triple Bingo every Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Bellerose Jewish Center, 254-04 Union Tpke., Floral Park. You can win up to $3,000.
• Nassau Mid-Island Chapter Of The Barber Shop Harmony Society invites any man who is interested in singing barbershop harmony to join them any Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. in the Church of the Advent Winthrop Hall, 555 Advent St. (one block east of Post Ave.; two blocks south of Jericho Tpke.), Westbury. Call George Seelinger 333-0803.
• Bingo Robert Van Cott American Legion Post #1139, 734 Woodfield Rd., West Hempstead, hosts a weekly Bingo game Wednesdays at 7:15 p.m. Early bird and game specials.
• Boy Scout Troop 158 Queens Village for boys ages 10 to 18 meets at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 92-10 217th St., Queens Village, every Friday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Call Mr. LeVine 1-781-465-5522 or email to Pear1H21@nyc.rr.com.
• Look Good...Feel Better sponsored by LIJ Medical Center in association with the National Cosmetology Association, the Toiletry Fragrance Association and the American Cancer Society. The program reaches out to women with cancer and teaches them how to best apply makeup and wear their hair while undergoing cancer treatment. Meets on the second Monday of every month at LIJ Medical Center, 27005 76th Ave., New Hyde Park. Reservations suggested, but not required. Call Harriet Pine or Selma Robinton 718-470-7094. All women who attend receive a makeup kit filled with brand-name cosmetics valued at over $200.
• AARP Chapter #5224 Floral Park meets on the third Monday of the month at the Floral Park Recreation Center. For further information call Marge Vance, president, 354-4296.
• Family Promise Of NC Are you concerned about helping homeless families in our local communities? You are invited to meetings for Family Promise of Nassau County, Inc., the third Monday of every month, at 7:30 p.m. at the New Hyde Park Baptist Church, 635 New Hyde Park Rd., NHP (352-9672 ). All congregations invited: Churches, synagogues, mosques and NC residents. The need is great. Call Family Promise at 684-9833.
• Stewart Manor Auxiliary Police Unit 105 is currently having an ongoing Recruitment Drive. Meetings are held on the last Monday of each month at the Village Hall, 120 Covert Ave. (side entrance on Chester Ave.). Those interested should call Sgt. Jerry Ortell 775-5126 to find out more.
• Garden City Ski Club meets on the first and third Wednesdays through April (except holidays) at 7:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus, 1000 Marcus Ave., New Hyde Park. Social events, trips to our lodge in Vermont, and skiing in a variety of areas throughout the West and New England. Ages 21 and over, please. For additional info and schedules visit www.gardencityskiclub.com or call 872-1448.
• Order Sons Of Italy meetings are held on the third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at the VFW Hall, Lincoln Rd., Franklin Square. There are also entertaining programs and refreshments and food are served free at every meeting. Call Sal Palmeri 328-0333 for an application.
• Citizen’s Party Of FP meets on the third Wednesday of each month at the American Legion Hall. To become a member, residents are invited to visit www.fpcitizensparty.com or call 775-2940.
• Your Widows/Widowers Social Group, a nonsectarian, nonprofit organization of widows and widowers ages 50 to 70 years of age. Fee for members is $3, nonmembers $5. Meets at 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church, 5th St. and Franklin Ave., Garden City, on the third Wednesday of each month. Call Denise 488-4597. No meeting at the church during July and August.
• FP Arthritis Support Group meetings will be held on the first Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at the Floral Park Library, Tulip Ave. and Carolina Pl., Floral Park. Call the Arthritis Foundation 427-8272.
• LI Junior Chamber Of Commerce The LIJC regularly has the Meet and Greet on the first Thursday and the monthly meeting on the third Tuesday of each month, along with a variety of other events throughout the month, For more information on the LI Junior Chamber, visit WWW.LIJC.com. Contact: Martin Dekom, Chairman, 850-2717 - Mdekom@gmail.com; Julie Dekom, Membership Director -Julz_5@yahoo.com; Steven Eiselen, Community Development VP -SEiselen@msn.com.
• Free/Low Cost Health Insurance The residents of communities served by Mercy Medical Center will have the opportunity to apply for free or low cost health insurance for children, families and adults up to age 64 on the first Thursday of every month from 5 to 7 p.m. in Mercy’s Main Lobby. Staff from Catholic Charities of LI will assist you and your children applying for Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus and Medicaid Health Insurance Programs. The bi-lingual enrollers will screen adults for income eligibility for the state’s health insurance program Family Health Plus. Children are eligible for Child Health Plus. These programs cover medical check-ups, hospitalization, emergency care, prescriptions, vision and dental care.
• Zonta Club Of LI a member of Zonta International, a worldwide service organization with a local club. Members help advance the status of women and are involved in many community service activities. The name Zonta is a word taken from the Sioux and stands for honesty, trust, inspiration and the ability to work together for service and understanding. At meetings members discuss and learn about issues facing women, develop and conduct fun fundraising that benefits community programs and network with Zonta International programs. The club meets at a monthly dinner meeting in New Hyde Park on the third Thursday of each month. Call Kathy Rau 488-2796.
• Art League Of NC monthly meeting and demonstration by a guest artist. Meets on the fourth Friday of each month at the New Hyde Park Recreation Center, Clinton G. Martin Park, Marcus Ave. and NHP Rd., NHP (near Union Tpke.) at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited. Refreshments served. Call 437-0919. Nonmembers $2. No meetings in June, July, August, December.
Has year round classes all taught by a professional. Classes for the littlest artist to the more serious, adult classes too. Call for more information at 742-7662 or go onto the web at thegardenartstudio.com.
Safe Boating Courses, free vessel safety checks and more from America’s Boating Club, the United States Power Squadrons. With 18 squadrons around Long Island, there’s one near you. Visit WeBoatSafe.org or call 1-800-341-8777 for more information.
Are you a senior who would like help paying for Medicare benefits and prescription drugs? Free assistance is only a phone call away if you qualify because of limited income. There may be a way to alleviate some of the cost of Medicare — deductibles and coinsurance, Part B premiums, prescription drug plans (Part D). Reducing monthly premiums, annual deductibles and co-payments, aiding with coverage gaps (the doughnut hole). To learn more call an LIS/HHS (Low Income Subsidy from U.S. Dept. of HHS) counselor from Family & Children’s, a community of caring. 485-3425, ext. 222.
Stroke Life Society is a community organization of survivors and co-survivors in the pursuit of living and helping others. A stroke can be very isolating. By sharing experiences and encouraging one another, together we can face and overcome common challenges. All welcome. RSVP is requested but not required. For information and other locations and times, call Ben Thomas 398-4994. Go to www.strokelife.org.
• Every first Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m. in Room 12, St. Frances de Chantal, 1309 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh.
• Every second Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Church of St. Jude, 3606 Lufberry Ave., Wantagh.
• Every second Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Epilepsy Conference Room, Research Building Level C, 270-05 76th Ave., New Hyde Park.
• Every third Friday at 2 p.m. at St. Bernard’s Parish Center, 3100 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown.
• Every fourth Wednesday at
6 p.m. in Room 106, St. James Parish Center, 80 Hicksville Rd., Seaford.
The NC Auxiliary Police Unit has available, through the cooperation of the NYS Office of Crime Prevention, very informative pamphlets on how you, the homeowner, can better protect you and your family from being a victim of crime. Any resident requesting a copy of these pamphlets can write to NC Auxiliary Police Unit 116, PO Box 288, West Hempstead, NY 11552; call 538-5800; or e-mail: NCAP116@AOL.COM. The following pamphlets are available:
• Common Sense for the Elderly
• The Babysitter Guide
• Crime Check (Home Survey)
• Don’t Be a Victim of Burglary
• Rape Prevention
Provides free transportation to and from medical appointments for senior citizens who are residents of the Floral Park/Bellerose area and cannot afford cab fare or who have no other means of transportation. Should you or a loved one need transportation to a medical appointment, contact FISH at 835-9522 or telephone coordinator Fran Hornberger at 775-0740.
At The Bellerose Jewish Center
Located at 254-04 Union Tpke., Floral Park. Call 718-343-9001:
• Free Jewish education for kindergarten and Sunday School children. A thorough religious curriculum with experienced teachers for third grade to their Bar/Bat Mitzvah is also provided.
• The Renaissance Group. A nonsectarian group of men and women who have lost a dear one. Dialogue and an exchange of ideas can be helpful. Call for date of the next meeting.
The following programs regularly serve all residents of Nassau County (call the NC Dept. of Senior Citizen Affairs 571-4330):
• Employment Referrals for Seniors. The NC Dept. of Senior Citizen Affairs is a resource to employers seeking qualified workers and to mature job seekers, 55+, who want assistance with employment and résumé preparation. Services are free of charge.
• The Foster Grandparents Program is recruiting senior volunteers to share their time and love with children in Nassau County. Volunteers receive a non-reportable stipend, transportation reimbursement, paid holidays, sick days and vacation days.
• If you are 55+, make your spare time count. Join the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, a national organization, and share your talents and skills at one of the many diversified placements.
Franklin Hospital Medical Center’s Thrift Shop, 138 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Floral Park United Methodist Church Thrift Shop, 35 Verbena Ave., open every Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Featuring jewelry, clothing, housewares, bric-a-brac, dishes, linens, collectibles, some furniture, small appliances and antiques. Donations gratefully accepted. Call 354-4969.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Failed Assassin Gets His Close-Up
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net
The Amazon Drone: Is It All About Buzz?
Written by Michael A. Miller, email@example.com
Pols Must Back Mass Transit To Beat Traffic
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net